The Proclamation of Korean Independence (1919)
We herewith proclaim the independence of Korea and the liberty of the Korean people.
We tell it to the world in witness of the equality of all nations and we pass it on to our posterity as their inherent right.
We make this proclamation, having back of us 5,000 year of history, and 20,000,000 of a united loyal people. We take this step to insure to our children for all time to come, personal liberty in accord with the awakening consciousness of this new era. This is the clear leading of God, the moving principle of the present age, the whole human race’s just claim. It is something that cannot be stamped out, or stifled, or gagged, or suppressed by any means.
Victims of an older age, when brute force and the spirit of plunder ruled, we have come after these long thousands of years to experience the agony of ten years of foreign oppression, with every loss to the right to live, every restriction of the freedom of thought, every damage done to the dignity of life, every opportunity lost for a share in the intelligent advance of the age in which we live.
Assumedly, if the defects of the past are to be rectified, if the agony of the present is to be unloosed, if the future oppression is to be avoided, if thought is to be set free, if right of action is to be given a place, if we are to attain to any way of progress, if we are to deliver our children from the painful, shameful heritage, if we are to leave blessing and happiness intact for those who succeed us, the first of all necessary things is the clear-cut independence of our people. What cannot our twenty millions do, every man with sword in heart, in this day when human nature and conscience are making a stand for truth and right?
What barrier can we not break, what purpose can we not a accomplish?
We have no desire to accuse Japan of breaking many solemn treaties since 1836, nor to single out specially the teachers in the schools or government officials who treat the heritage of our ancestors as a colony of their own, and our people and their civilization as a nation of savages, finding delight only in beating us down and bringing us under their heel.
We have no wish to find special fault with Japan’s lack of fairness or her contempt of our civilization and the principles on which her state rests; we, who have greater cause to reprimand ourselves, need not spend precious time in finding fault with others; neither need we, who require so urgently to build for the future, spend useless hours over what is past and gone. Our urgent need today is the settling up of this house or ours and not a discussion of who has broken it down, or what has caused its ruin. Our work is to clear the future of defeats in accord with the earnest dictates of conscience. Let us not be filled with bitterness or resentment over past agonies or past occasions for anger.
Our part is to influence the Japanese government, dominated as it is by the old idea of brute force which thinks to run counter to common and universal law, so that it will change, act honestly and in accord with the principles of right and truth.
The result of annexation, brought about without any conference with the Korean people, is that the Japanese, indifferent to us, use every kind of partiality for their own, and by a false set of figures show a profit and loss account between us two peoples most untrue, digging a trench of everlasting resentment deeper and deeper the farther they go.
Ought not the way of enlightened courage to be to correct the evils of the past by ways that are sincere, and by true sympathy and friendly feeling make a new world in which the two peoples will be equally blessed?
To bind by force twenty millions of resentful Koreans will mean not only loss of pence forever for this part of the Far East, but also will increase the ever-growing suspicion of four hundred millions of Chinese-upon whom depends the danger or safety of the Far East-besides strengthening the hatred of Japan. From this all the rest of the East will suffer. Today Korean independence will mean not only daily life and happiness for us, but also it would mean Japan’s departure from an evil way and exaltation to the place of true protector of the East, so that China, too, even in her dreams, would put all fear of Japan aside.
This thought comes from no minor resentment, but from a large hope for the future welfare and blessing of mankind.
A new era wakes before our eyes, the old world of force is gone, and the new world of righteousness and truth is here. Out of the experience and travail of the old world arises this light on life’s affairs. The insects stifled by the foe and snow of winter awake at this ame time with the breezes of spring and the soft light of the sun upon them.
It is the day of the restoration of all things on the full tide of which we set forth, without delay or fear. We desire a full measure of satisfaction in the way of liberty and the pursuit of happiness, and an opportunity to develop what is in use for the glory of our people.
We awake now from the aid world with its darkened conditions in full determination and one heart and one mind, with right on our side, along with the forces of nature, to a new life. May all the ancestors to the thousands and ten thousand generations old us from within and all the force of the world aid us from without, and let the day we take hold be the day of our attainment. In this hope we go forward.
THREE ITEMS OF AGREEMENT
- 1. This work of ours is in behalf of truth, religion and life undertaken at the request of our people, in order to make known their desire for liberty. Let no violence be done to anyone.
- 2. Let those who follow us every man all the time, every hour, show forth with gladness this same mind.
- 3. Let all things be done decently and in order, so that our behavior to the very end may be honorable and upright.
The 4252nd year of the Kingdom of Korea 3d Month Representatives of the People The signatures attached to the document are;
Son Byung Hi, Kil Sun Chu, Yi Pil Chu, Paik Long Sung, Kim Won Kyu, Kim Byung Cho, Kim Chang Choon, Kwon Dong Chin, Kwon
Byung Duk, Na Long Whan, Na In Hup, Yang Chun Paik, Yang Han Mook, Lee Yer Dai, Yi Kap Sung, Yi Mung Yong, Yi Seung Hoon, Yi Chong Hoon, Yi Chong Il, Lim Yei Whan, Pak Choon Seung, Pak Hi Do, Pak Tong Wan, Sin Hong Sik, Sin Suk Ku, Oh Sei Chang, Oh Wha Young, Chung Choon Su, Choi Sung Mo, Choi Ju, Yong Woon, Hong Byung Ki, Hong Ki Cho.